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Construction management is a professional service that provides a project’s owner(s) with effective management of the project's schedule, cost, quality, safety, scope, and function. Construction management is compatible with all project delivery methods. No matter the setting, a Construction Manager’s (CMs) responsibility is to the owner and to a successful project.

At its core, a capital project is made up of three parties (excluding the CM):

  • The owner, who commissions the project and either funds the project directly or finances it through a variety of methods.

  • The architect/engineer, who designs the project.

  • The general contractor, who oversees day-to-day operations and manages subcontractors.

The CM represents the owner’s interest and provides oversight over the entire project directly for the owner. His/her mandate is to work with all parties to deliver the project on time, at or under budget, and to the owner’s expected standard of quality, scope, and function.

CMs are uniquely qualified through combined education and experience to work with the owner, architect, general contractor, and other stakeholders to determine the best possible sequence of construction operations and develop a detailed schedule and budget, while also establishing plans for project safety and security and helping the owner manage risk. This requires using project management information systems (PMISs) and complex planning techniques, like critical path method, as well as knowledge of construction methods.

A 2013 study by McGraw-Hill Construction and supported by the CMAA Foundation showed that using professional CMs saved money, avoided or mitigated problems, and produced higher quality results for owners.

Professional CMs use industry-standard practices to manage projects successfully. The CM Body of Knowledge and Standards of Practice address all six areas of construction management services: schedule, cost, safety, quality, function, and scope.

Professional construction project management is a super fine-tuned system designed to facilitate planning, coordination and control of a project from the early stages all the way to project closeout and completion. Qualified construction managers use specialized project management techniques to orchestrate a project’s schedule, costs and quality. And orchestrate it is.

Imagine that you’re underwriting a concert. You have an orchestra and a conductor in mind, a dream program, you know who you want to invite, and you expect flawless execution. But have you thought about all the details? Choice of venue, dates, flying your favorite cellist in from Hungary, personnel, permits, paperwork, rehearsals, unions, sound engineers, media, concert program printing, lighting, the piano tuner, ushers, caterers, etc.? Maybe not. In terms of putting on a dream concert, someone has to manage all that. And in the world of building a complex construction project, of overseeing the big picture and fine-tuning the details, orchestrating everything is precisely what your construction management team does.

The members of your team provide managerial expertise. Once a clear vision of your project has been elaborated, they control budgets, initiate cost-saving ideas, mitigate risk and ensure the flow of communication. Their role is to represent the owner’s best interests, and they do that by making sure that the project progresses as smoothly as possible according to objectives in terms of time and resources. And they’re able to accomplish that because they know how to manage a construction project step by step—it’s what they do.

What an effective construction manager does is apply their strong leadership skills and depth of experience to a wide spectrum of projects and construction methods. They make it their job to monitor the latest technologies and construction management software so you don’t have to. They coordinate all of the many project team members, up to and including the percussion player who tings the triangle.

Qualified construction managers use specialized project management techniques to manage a project’s schedule, costs and quality.

There are many requirements for successful construction management, and these can be regrouped under three main categories: cost, scope and schedule. Cost includes the obvious, but it also covers elements that you, the layperson, may not see coming, as well as risk assessment and wiggle room for the unpredictable. Scope is a major element in construction project management. What it means in this context is: what exactly is the owner’s program and architect’s design intent, and how will it be accomplished? To make this all happen, the services that each team member provides need to be clear—everything covered, but no duplications. Who is booking the cellist’s hotel room? Who’s making sure that all the permits are in order? Who’s serving the champagne? If exact roles aren’t designated from the get-go, you can expect delays and extra costs while they’re determined on the fly. A good construction program team will work with the best construction management software to make certain that every detail of your project is accounted for before actual construction begins. Finally, schedule is a straightforward concept that also requires risk calculations and Plan Bs. Life is unpredictable—juggling your/the owner’s evolving ideas, new regulations, the contractor’s kid’s wedding in Tuscany, natural disasters and all the rest is best left to the experts. Trust your construction manager to get things done as well, as quickly and as cost-effectively as possible, so you can relax and enjoy your evening at the concert.

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